First-ever openly trans Miss South Africa contestant wants to be a beacon of hope for young girls

Stunning model Lehlogonolo Machaba has made history as the first ever openly trans woman to enter the Miss South Africa beauty pageant – and she’s vying for the crown.

The 24-year old from Letlhabile is among 30 contestants who will compete for the coveted title, including two medical doctors, an attorney, a commercial pilot, several graduates and an environmental specialist.

But even if Machaba doesn’t make it to first place in the competition, she’s already won.

“Everything I do as a dark-skinned, transgender woman is a statement,” she explained to Times Live. “My mere existence in society is threatening, and there’s a lot of closet transgender women who are afraid to come out in fear of receiving hate and even worse, being killed.

“By doing this I am helping all those women to know that there’s still hope and the world is changing for good, slowly but surely.”

The Miss South Africa competition has been open to transgender women since 2019, though there is no requirement for contestants to disclose their status.

Machaba told News24: “Transgender women are almost always ostracised from such opportunities, which is why I never thought I’d see anyone like myself on such a platform. I believe that being chosen would raise hope in a lot of little girls like myself.”

Outside the competition Machaba works as a model booker at Invade Models, is the founder of DeMollies fashion brand and also holds a diploma in fashion design technology from the Tshwane University of Technology.

In her spare time, she volunteers at a local LGBT+ centre, Access Chapter Two, to help young people with university applications and job applications.

Unfortunately, the reality of life as an LGBT+ South African is one she can’t avoid, even as she represents her community at such a high level.

“The daily murder of queer and trans-identifying people in our country is devastating,” she said, referring to the wave of deadly homophobic violence that has spread unchecked across the country.

“Through the Miss South Africa platform, I’d be able to advocate for the LGBTQIA community and, more specifically, queer-identifying women,” she continued.

“I would use this opportunity to empower every marginalised person and become a beacon of hope for young girls out there regardless of whatever they think hinders them from attaining whatever goal they have.

“With patience, perseverance and hard work, they can attain anything they put their minds to.”


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